Vanuatu speaker lodges court appeal amid political crisis

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Vanuatu Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau speaks during a U.N. General Assembly session at United Nations headquarters in New York City, U.S., March 29, 2023. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo/ Acquire Licensing Rights

SYDNEY, Aug 28 (Reuters) – Vanuatu’s parliament speaker has appealed a court decision that found a vote of no-confidence in Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau had been won by opposition parties, prolonging a political crisis in the Pacific Islands nation.

Vanuatu, at the centre of a strategic rivalry between China and Western countries in the region, was plunged into political uncertainty when opposition leader Bob Loughman lodged the no-confidence petition criticising Kalsakau for actions including signing a security pact with Australia.

Vanuatu’s Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the vote in parliament was won by the opposition party, but stayed action to remove Kalsakau until Monday, to allow for an appeal.

The parliament speaker, Seoule Simeon, lodged an appeal on Monday afternoon, a government spokesman said in a statement on Facebook.

Loughman, who drew Vanuatu closer to China as the previous prime minister, has said the security pact with Australia compromised Vanuatu’s “neutral” status and could jeopardise development assistance from China, its biggest external creditor.

China has sent police experts and security equipment to Vanuatu, with a handover ceremony involving Kalsakau taking place on Friday.

Vanuatu’s police force said in a statement on Saturday it had “good working relations with all partners – Australia, New Zealand and China”.

The United States and its allies are seeking to dissuade Pacific Islands nations from establishing security ties with China, after it signed security and policing pacts with the Solomon Islands.

Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Michael Perry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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